An Autumnal Cheese Primer

An autumnal cheese primer from chef Matt Jennings and the James Beard Foundation

Sure, fall’s harvest brings tons of great produce, but as JBF Award nominee, chef, and master cheesemonger Matt Jennings explains, it’s also the peak season for cheese.

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You can tell a lot about your cheese from how it tastes, and the flavors of true artisan American cheeses are as varied as the seasons in which they’re created.

It’s a well-known truth in the tight-knit world of professional cheesemongers that autumn in particular brings a bounty of small-production cheeses from farms and producers across the country—each with a distinct flavor profile and a story all its own.

While it can be hard to choose, here are some of our favorite cheeses to purchase and consume in the autumn months.

Vermont Shepherd // Vermont Shepherd Farm, Vermont
Vermont Shepherd, an American raw-milk classic, is created by David Major... Read more >

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Awards Watch: Matt Jennings, where were you when…?

Matt Jennings of La Laiterie in Providence was headed back from a sourcing trip to Vermont with his staff when they got the news that he was nominated for Best Chef: Northeast: “So there we were, in northern New Hampshire, in a big rented van that smelled like wet farm animal, with glass bottles of maple syrup clanking around in the back and the crew singing along to “Bennie and the Jets,” when all of a sudden, we came within cell phone range and all of our phones started bleeping and blinging. Text messages arrived from other staff, friends, and family, and we logged onto Twitter to discover it was true—we had made the final cut! We were temped to pull over to the nearest bar for a quick shot, but we were still about a three-hour drive from home!”

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On the Menu: American Artisan Dinner

Kate and Matt Jennings Thanks to dairy pioneers like the Kehler brothers and Angela Miller, American cheesemaking has come a long way from the age of processed “cheese product.” Chefs also play an important role in helping these artisanal offerings reach our plates. One of them is Master Cheesemonger Matt Jennings: after apprenticing with cheesemakers all over Europe, he now spreads the good cheese gospel at Farmstead & La Laiterie, a restaurant and cheese shop in Providence. (He will also judge cheese at the Good Food Awards

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Recipe: Chilled Carrot Soup With Clotted Cream, Pistachios, and Mint

Matt Jennings's carrot soup Laced with fragrant spices, olive oil, and mint, this puréed carrot soup from chef Matt Jennings is packed with flavor. Jennings finishes the dish with a quenelle of clotted cream, which you can make ahead of time by letting a mixture of cream and buttermilk thicken at room temperature. (If you can't do that step beforehand, just grab an imported jar from Whole Foods or Dean and Deluca.)

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